In the 1990s, a brilliant batsman called Brian Lara dominated world cricket. Some said he was more talented than our own Sachin Tendulkar. The Caribbean scaled many mountains in terms of individual brilliance but could enjoy little success as a team for the West Indies team for which he batted was a fragile outfit. Lara was always a tragic hero.
Narendra Modi: Brian Lara of the BJP?
Narendra Modi in the contemporary Indian politics resembles Lara to some extent. He is the best thing to have happened to the BJP in the post-Vajpayee era just like what Lara was for the Windies in the post-Viv Richards era but unlike Vajpayee or Viv, Modi does not have a powerful team to back his prospect as the future leader of the country. The recent spate of elections has proved that. Modi is winning but the BJP is losing.
If Modi successfully battled the ghosts of the past and strengthened the pro-incumbency waves despite being in power for 11 years, the Congress successfully tackled the probable anti-incumbency mood gaining strength across the nation against the government led by it at the Centre, at least in the state elections.
2012 a bad electoral year for BJP
Concurrently, the failure of other BJP chief ministers to do a Modi allowed the Congress to cash in on the anti-incumbency wave in states ruled by the saffron party. It lost the two hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in 2012, which saw many important states going to the elections and acting as a precursor to the all-important 2014 general elections.
The BJP had over 270 MLAs in Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, the states that went to the polls this year and the tally fell to below 255. Even in Gujarat, its trump card, the party finished two seats shy of its 2007 tally while the 'hapless' Congress got a considerable vote share and increased its seats.
In fact, the Congress, despite all major scams and corruption charges, increased its combined tally from 215 to over 250 in the seven states that went to the polls this year. The BJP might have won some civic polls, but it was the Congress which finished the year on a better note, its UPA government turning a minority notwithstanding.
It is difficult to write off the Congress
There is a big irony in Indian politics. It is often said that the Congress party will disappear one day for its dynastic functioning is not suited for a democracy. I feel it is a totally misleading concept. The Congress will continue to be an eternal force in Indian politics. If it wins decisively in the 2014 polls, it will form a UPA III but even if it doesn't, a government led by a third force will invariably require the Congress's support. The country's political history has enough of such examples.
It is not without a reason that the Congress has remained the most relevant force in Indian politics even in the post-1989 era, when coalition mantra gained prominence.
Gandhis are Congress's strength
The reason for the Congress's sustainability despite all odds is the Gandhi family itself, the party's power centre. No matter how much criticism is hurled at 10 Janpath, it still resembles a symbol of stability for the country's grand-old party.
The Congress, which we mock as dynastic and family business today, has evolved on the strength of the secular and liberal legacy of Nehru (which makes it a more trusted ally than the BJP for most regional parties banking on minority votes) and realism of Indira Gandhi. The other branches of the party that moved on different directions never succeeded to match the stature of the power centre that Congress(I) possessed and still has.
In fact, most of the stable political parties that India has today are deep-rooted in family circles. It may look a misfit in a democracy but we are actually still a distance from the final drawing line of democracy. Voting alone doesn't make us democratic.
BJP slides more and more
This viewpoint of mine gets a further boost when we see the principal opposition party, the BJP, potentially a democratic party in the real sense as against the Congress, finds itself enmeshed in a pitiable state. The party has lost its ideological orientation and is in a confused state and there is no leadership to give it a direction. And when ideology and leadership are in a shambles, it is inevitable that the third major asset of a party, its organisation, will suffer.
The BJP's grave internal squabble cost it dearly in Assam, UP and more recently Himachal. The chances are also high of it being kicked out of power in Karnataka. Things might go for the worse any moment in Rajasthan and Delhi as well. The two states where the party may feel secured, thanks to two powerful CMs, are Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Dynastic but stable leadership is better than an unstable one
Top leadership is certainly making the difference between the Congress and the BJP. Despite the fact that the Gandhis practise dynastic politics, the Congress is still a party of the masses, compared to the largely urban-centric BJP, which is losing its connection with the roots more and more because of an arrogant, naïve and a tainted leadership (it takes away the party's advantage on corruption as well). Another set of important states will go to the polls in 2013 and 2014 and the Congress is already in the election mode in many of them.
For the BJP, well, it might have just finished its last major celebration in Gujarat.